Zu Magazine is a publication of Zu Media. Below is an article from Issue 2: Contentment

Staff Writer | Ashley Lawrence

As a pet owner, the sight of my dogs when I come home from a long day of school instantly lifts my mood. Many other pet owners can agree that animals make us happier after a strenuous day.

Something about watching them run around a house, a yard or a beach while chasing their favorite toy creates a sense of joy in the onlookers.

Due to their capacity for emotional support, animals such as cats and dogs have been increasingly present in settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, jails, mental institutions and schools like Azusa Pacific.

Dr. Rebecca Johnson, head of the Research Center for Human/Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, said that multiple studies have focused on the way that animals increase people’s levels of the hormone oxytocin.

“Oxytocin helps us feel happy and trusting. Oxytocin has some powerful effects for us in the body’s ability to be in a state of readiness to heal, and also to grow new cells,” Johnson said. “So, it predisposes us to an environment in our own bodies where we can be healthier.”

Pet-Assisted Visitation Volunteer Services, PAWS for People, is a pet therapy organization that studies the healing aspect of pets. They also teach therapy teams like Pet Partners, Love on a Leash and Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs how to do individualized therapeutic visits.

PAWS for People lists the benefits of pet therapy. In this list they claim that interaction with a friendly pet can lessen anxiety, decrease feelings of isolation, encourage communication, reduce boredom and decrease depression.

Azusa Pacific has the “Service Animal As a Disability Accommodation Policy,” which allows service animals to accommodate students on campus.

The policy states that a “‘service animal’ is any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability including physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability.”

APU junior Paige Captain, who has a registered service cat on campus, said “My depression is about loneliness and it’s at its worst when I’m by myself … coming home to an animal helps take away that alone feeling.”  

Although the policy states that only dogs are eligible as service animals, Paige has completed the necessary paperwork and accommodations via the Learning Enrichment Center and  Housing Services so her cat could be approved.

Following the traumatic Las Vegas shooting on October 1, dogs were sent to Vegas to provide support and help people process feelings of grief and anxiety.

The LCC-K9 comfort dogs, who are backed by the Lutheran Church Charities, announced on October 2 that 17 dogs were on their way to Las Vegas from states including California, Nebraska and Illinois to supply their furry love and comfort.

The furry friends visited the survivors at the Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center and attended a candlelight vigil for the victims whose lives were taken.

Tim Hetzner, founder of the K-9 Comfort Dog Ministries, told ABC news, “The great thing about the dogs, they’re unconditional, confidential and safe. Dogs have an incredible sense of when somebody is hurting, they’ll just come and lay themselves into somebody’s lap.”

Having loving interactions that are expectation-free can make the difference in an emotional recovery, especially when it’s a wet nose in your face or a furry paw in your lap.